Sian Evans’ Kosheen come to The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth: ‘Playing live is my drug’
In the early noughties Kosheen were major players in the world of UK dance music. They scored back-to-back gold-selling top 10 albums with their 2001 debut Resist and its follow-up Kokopelli.
Coming out of the Bristolian trip-hop scene, they blended those more laid back sounds with drum’n’bass and a live band, resulting in several top 20 singles, including Hide U, Catch, Hungry and All In My Head.
But after their fifth album, 2013’s Solitude, they called it a day at the end of its tour.
Frontwoman Sian Evans had already started working outside the band – she had a huge number one hit with DJ Fresh on Louder, and she subsequently formed her own band. They initially performed acoustically, but over time, the electronic influences have crept back in.
Now playing under her own name, she is feeling rejuvenated and looking forward – while also celebrating the music Kosheen made.
Describing the split, she tells The Guide: ‘Those guys are all doing something different now.
‘I’m very much into writing songs, and keeping along the lines of the albums we did together, which are very song-based, very emotional, and the guys wanted to do more techy stuff, so there was a bit of a parting of creative ways there.
‘It’s taken a few years – there’s been a few reincarnations along the way as a writer and as a performer – I’ve done acoustic sets, lots of co-writing and collaborations with producers and songwriters all around the world.
‘But I just wanted to get back on stage and sing the songs that I love the most, which are the songs I wrote for Kosheen.’
And she’s already looking forward to the 20th anniversary of Resist.
‘I thought it was important to take these songs back out on the road and I’ve built a band around me with electronic backing tracks and embellished with great instrumentation from Ron McElroy and John Good, and the original drummer from Kosheen, Mitchell Glover – who’s actually a Pompey boy! This will be a home gig for him.
‘It’s fabulous to be back on stage with him, we had so many adventures together when we were performing together.’
While she describes touring now as ‘more ladylike’ than back in the day, it’s the live shows that she loves doing.
‘That’s where I live, I love being on the stage and communicating with my audience and getting that feeling of a shared energy. I’m not just there to be observed – it’s a participatory performance. I want people to feel like they’ve been part of something that they can take home with them.
‘That’s the drug for me, the drug is the vibe I get in response to the songs I’ve written.’
She’s understandably proud of Kosheen’s place in our musical history.
‘We were very proud to be the first drum’n’bass act to get daytime rotation on Radio1, and to get top 10 hits and be on Top of The Pops as an electronic-based band.
‘We were kind of tastemakers then I suppose, we influenced a lot of acts, and we continue to do so.
‘It still surprises me that I go to places and the demographic is a really broad spectrum. You’ve got quite young people who are real drum’n’bass heads who love the Kosheen of Hide U and Suicide – and Louder, that little tickle I had with DJ Fresh, which was really positive for the longevity of my career. It kept me in the public consciousness of a younger generation.’
The song Louder is hailed now as the first dubstep number one, and was ubiquitous on its 2011 release. It featured in a Lucozade advertising campaign and routinely cropped up on TV and in video games.
‘I’ve got very high expectations of myself,’ she says of its origins. ‘I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I put 100 per cent into everything that I do.
‘I guess you don’t go into a writing session looking to write a hit – if you do that it’s kind of disposable, kind of expendable, whereas I’m more into writing things that have more of a lifespan and that can connect with people.
‘They come from experience or observation of the human condition, just expressing myself – that’s why I write songs, it’s my catharsis, my way of making sense of the world, and I think people connect with that, and the honesty there.’
Sian has been working towards her debut solo album for some time now, and it remains a work in progress.
‘At the moment, the Sian Evans Band is a growing brand, it’s nice to be recognised as a writer and a performer in my own right. I’ve been writing and compiling tracks for this solo album for a good few years now, and I know what direction I want to go in.
‘Before then I’d like to rerelease Resist, maybe remix it, but that’s going to take a few more conversations with the other members of the partnership.
‘In the meantime, I’m just going to put myself out there – we’ve got some great festival slots, I’ve got a great little tour of Europe in the autumn, and just building up to doing a nice big tour to celebrate the amazing album, Resist. It’s a seminal album that I’m so proud of.’
Three years ago, though, Sian admits she was close to giving up on her music after becoming the victim of a stalker.
A Russian fan was jailed for eight months for stalking after he turned up in her hometown and tracked her down while she was walking her dogs on the beach. He claimed to love her, and was already recognised as a somewhat obsessive fan.
Sian had already blocked him from social media, but he had then posed as a female fan to regain access.
‘That was a terrifying experience.
‘I’ve had a few loons but never one that’s hung out on the beach at 7 o’clock in the morning waiting to catch a glimpse of me.
‘It really put the frighteners on me, and made me realise how much of a public property you become as a performer and how the lines can become blurred and the parameters of your safety.
‘It completely freaked me out, but I’m okay now. I’m ready to talk about it now as a warning to other performers to keep your boundaries close.’
With that behind her Sian has been focusing on the music again. Her band played here at Victorious last summer, headlining the Beats & Swing stage, and she has fond memories of the gig.
‘It was great, but between then and now we’ve done about 20-30 more gigs and the feel and the vibe and the sound is growing.
‘I believe we’ve got a fuller sound and more energetic sound than we did back in Kosheen.
‘I’m not a person to want to go backwards – I want to get stronger and get clearer – I hope. You can tell me after the show if I’m achieving that!’
SIAN EVANS KOSHEEN
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Saturday, May 11